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Posted: 2003-09-13

Category: Book reviews

Iljitsch van Beijnum - BGP

Iljitsch van Beijnum's recent book BGP, published in September 2002 by O'Reilly, describes itself as "a guide to all aspects of BGP." Rather than describing the BGP protocol itself in excruciating detail, it describes in a hand-on way the context in which BGP is used, how to set up a network based on BGP, and all aspects of running a BGP network on a day-to-day basis.

The book starts out with a brief history of the internet and the role of BGP as an interdomain routing protocol. The details of the BGP protocol itself are described only briefly. It then moves on to the technical details of setting up an ISP network, both in terms of network topology, router choice, as well as IP addressing and AS number issues.

One chapter is then devoted to the basics of setting up BGP in your network. The remaining chapters deal with various aspects of using BGP in the day-to-day running of a network, including security, network management, troubleshooting, and several aspects of growing your network such as transit and peering on internet exchanges. The chapter about traffic engineering is available on-line and gives a good indication of the writing style and content of the rest of the book.

Iljitsch's writing style is informal, and you can tell he is writing from experience. As said before, the book does not go deep into the details of the BGP protocol, but that should not be necessary for people just wanting to implement BGP in their network. In general, the right amount of detail is provided when explaining concepts or showing how to set up something. However, due to his choice of fictional AS numbers and IP addresses, some of the examples remain a little abstract. In addition, several sections of the book have little to do with running a BGP network per se but more with running an ISP in general, for example, how to run a help desk.

The examples in the book are based on the Cisco IOS configuration language, so they should be readily usable on Cisco routers and most of the examples should work unmodified on other routers that use a IOS-like configuration language, like Zebra/Quagga based PC routers. Given the dominance that Cisco (still) has in the marketplace, this decision is understandable. Moreover, since the book mainly focuses on concepts and less on configuration details, you should adapt the examples to your particular situation anyway.

All in all, BGP is a must-have for anyone dealing with BGP as part of their job, especially people in the same situation Iljitsch found himself in: at a start-up ISP still in the process of figuring things out and growing their network. The main drawback of the book is that it is only 272 pages, and as a result, several interesting topics are only touched upon in the book.

You can buy the book from or other booksellers.

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